Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Required Reading for the Skeptic


There are times when I talk about the radical leftist nature of higher education (and the general oddity of much of the instruction at our nation’s universities), and I see the unmistakable signs of skepticism: The furrowed brow, the slight scowl. “Surely,” they seem to be saying, “you exaggerate.” They hear stories about Ward Churchill or read a few samples of incomprehensible deconstructionist writing and think, “They don’t really teach that stuff in the classroom.”

Well, I present to you Joshua Gunn and his essay, “Why I Am Not Radical Enough.” This marvelous piece is almost beyond parody. Gunn, a teacher of rhetorical studies at the University of Texas, describes how he has moderated his teaching style now that “we live in an environment that no longer protects academic freedom.” You must read it all. Some of my favorites:

“But I quickly learned that when one combines reading material that attempts to unravel binaries and my own ambiguously (and strategically) queer teaching persona in a “Bush Country” classroom, one should expect a little hostility.”

“The day after I lectured on heterosexist norms in heavy metal music videos, I was summoned to the principal’s office to get a talking to.”

“Immediately after the incident, I was worried about protecting my teaching assistants. One of them was slated to deliver a lecture on the interchangeability of sex organs in the music and art of Peaches, a controversial and polyamorous figure who had an underground dance hit with “Shake Yer Dix (Shake Yer Tits).”

Remember, this is in a state-university rhetoric class. But I will not paste his “compromise,” the paragraphs-long screed that he wrote his class to explain why he was not intending to take a “sermonic” approach to sexuality issues (without a trace of irony, he makes this pledge after explaining in the four previous paragrpahs how “being different can get you killed.”) You must read that for yourself and then marvel at the state of higher education in “Bush Country.”


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